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County board agrees to rezone farm land

The Pierce County Board voted last week to rezone 177 acres--137 from Exclusive Agriculture to Primary Agriculture and 40 acres from Primary Agriculture to General Rural Flexible.

Both rezonings will allow a greater residential density. Supervisors questioned both proposals, but when it came time to vote, little opposition was heard.

Slightly more than 137 acres in the Town of Salem was rezoned from Exclusive Agriculture to Primary Agriculture. The land is owned by the Wallace and Rosemary Waite Trust, Eden, Utah.

According to the staff report, the old zoning would allow 3.9 residential lots and the new zoning will allow seven lots.

The 1996 Land Management Plan designated this property as Restricted Agriculture, intending to conserve prime farm soils and support the Farmland Preservation Program, but this land was not enrolled in the program and hasn't received those tax credits.

The Town of Salem had its own zoning before it joined county zoning and is now looking at a comprehensive revision of its plan, said Supervisor Jeff Holst, a member of the Land Management Committee.

"They changed their vision of what they thought their residents wanted," said Holst. He said the Salem planning commission doesn't feel this land fits into its Exclusive Agriculture district.

Much of the land has bluffs and isn't suited for Exclusive Agriculture zoning, added Supervisor Mel Pittman, Plum City.

"I think the difference is you can make more money if you sell land and develop it," commented Supervisor John Kucinski, Town of River Falls.

"That's their 401(k). They got a right to cash in their retirement fund just like everyone else," responded Supervisor Don Nellessen, Spring Valley.

New Supervisor Ben Plunkett, River Falls, said he agrees people have a right to sell their property, but questioned changing the rules to allow them to double or triple the sale price.

The change is only from Exclusive Agriculture to Primary Agriculture, replied Holst.

A voice vote was taken, with only Supervisor Rich Purdy, River Falls, voting against the rezoning.

In other action, the board voted to rezone 40 acres in the Town of Hartland from Primary Agriculture to General Rural Flexible. According to the staff report, Don Rohl recently bought the land and would like it to be zoned the same as other property he owns in the area.

All the land is currently farmed, but Rohl would like to eventually divide these 40 acres and leave the other 109 for farming, according to the report.

Purdy wondered if Rohl was asked to rezone the land he intends to farm to Primary Agriculture.

"I don't see what reason there would be to ask that question," replied Nellessen.

Rohl has the option of restricting the use of the land and may do that, said Holst.

Rohl could transfer density from the 109 acres to the 40 to get a higher maximum density, said Purdy.

If the owner does develop to the maximum, what does that do to the water table, asked new Supervisor Pamela Sans, Ellsworth.

The characteristics of the land dictate the maximum housing density, replied Holst. He said it's Rohl's intent to have all his adjacent land zoned the same, and usually a development plan would be submitted after the property is rezoned.

Rohl, who was just elected to the county board this month, abstained from voting. The clerk recorded no votes against this rezoning.